According to Public Speaking Success, 3 out of every 4 people have speech anxiety that is problematic when delivering public speeches. It’s a very common phobia, but one that can make or break careers where public speaking is required. However; just like any fear, it will get worse overtime if you let it take hold so conquering sooner than later is your best remedy.
Lawyers speak in front of others on an almost daily basis. It is their job to project an air of confidence in order to win their client’s case, but that doesn’t mean public speaking comes naturally for everyone, even lawyers who have been in the field for years. If you are currently a lawyer, or are thinking of becoming one, but feel that your fear of public speaking is holding you back, taking lessons from a professional is a quick and easy way to break through the fear and excel…
Be aware of Body Language
Whilst humans are a species primarily used to using our voices in comparison to the rest of the animal world, it is in fact body language, or non-verbal gestures, makes up 93% of all daily communication. When you are speaking to someone, it’s more of what you do than what you say that will have a greater impact.
When you speak, you naturally use non-verbal communication whether you are aware of it or not. These gestures can be used to your advantage if you know how to use them.
For example, one of the main downfalls of many speakers is the inability to make eye contact. Maintaining eye contact allows you to create a bond with the listener, build trust and show sincerity. Even if you are nervous, avoid looking at the ground or around those you are addressing. If you are speaking to a large group of people, scan the room evenly and don’t worry about locking eyes with individuals.
Next is talking with your hands. Some people are passionate and seemingly talk more with their hands than their mouths while others shove their hands nervously into their pockets. Neither of these extremes are ideal. Instead, don’t think so much about what to do. Ask yourself: what’s natural and appropriate? Use your hands and gestures to emphasize your words to compliment the sort of attitude you wish to portray. It’s also helpful to use your space, moving around and not standing in one area. In this way, you can show that you are comfortable and confident.
Not sure if your body language is saying what you want it to? As painful as it may be, consider either videotaping yourself speaking, or practice in front a small group of trusted friends. Then, you can reflect on what you see. You may be too aware of your own gestures that you think they are distracting when in fact they’re not, or you may pick up on certain mannerisms you could do without. Either way, reflecting and taking constructive criticism of your body language can be essential in progressing.
Fake Confidence, For Now
Confidence is essential in the field of law. The ability to ask hard questions, to explore and push the envelope, are necessary skills. One way to curb the fear of speaking is to do your research and take time to build your knowledge so that answering those hard questions come easier. Being self-assured in your abilities which will result in you inevitably being more comfortable.
If our body language says more than our words, then exuding confidence through gestures should come as a sort of relief to anyone suffering from a fear of public speaking. When we think too much about how we appear to others, this hyper focusing creates a unrealistic view of ourselves that we think others can also see, but they can’t! Most people share similar fears but they have the ability to “hide” this fear resulting in a more comfortable self. So, how can you show that you are confident even when you’re not?
Practice, practice, practice. Practice your skills early and often, and the more experience you have, the easier it will become. This is why preparation is so important: the more familiar you are with the subject matter you are speaking about, the more relaxed you will appear (even if you are not!). It is not necessary to have a perfect script prepared, but an outline of topics is helpful. Don’t be afraid to use notecards or other memos as long as you don’t read from them verbatim.
Practical Application with Mediation
Your presentation and ability to effectively communicate is very important to ensure a beneficial outcome. In short, a mediator’s job is to “try and help clarify the issues and assist the parties in negotiating with one another,” and to help the parties examine their options. The decision making power lies with the parties and not the mediator, your communication and persuasion skills as a lawyer are essential.
Mediation is an informal process that requires problem solving skills and clear communication so if you suffer from a fear of public speaking but still want to be an effective mediator, consider a few of these tips.
First, familiarize yourself with the room in which you will be speaking and know the material. You will feel more comfortable if you know both your audience and material, so prepare as much as possible.
Next, be sincere and honest by making eye contact and using your voice and body language to your advantage. For example, avoid crossing your arms while speaking as it may make you appear closed off or untrustworthy.
Finally, avoid using law jargon that may confuse the parties, and if a question comes up that you have no answer for, be honest and tell them that you will find that out for them, and be sure to follow up.
Communication is an essential skill of a lawyer, and a fear of public speaking should not be a hindrance. With a bit of practice and patience, a lawyer can find success in alleviating their fears of public speaking.